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HOT TOPICS: Drug and Alcohol Treatment  Heroin

drug smuggling

12/13/12 1:08pm

Cannons Launch Drugs Across the US Border


An old school technique. Photo via

Border patrol agents believe cannons were used last week to propel 85 pounds of marijuana over the border and 500 feet into Arizona. The drugs, which were tucked away in soup cans and then inserted into larger-sealed containers, were discovered and reported by a concerned citizen. They were then intercepted by authorities before they could be picked up by the US-based members of the operation. After searching the area, agents later found the carbon dioxide tank they believe was used to propel the containers through the air. "Because of our progress in targeting and obstructing movement, they can no longer just walk across the border," said Linwood Estes, a Border Patrol Agent in Yuma, AZ. "The more and more successful we are, the more and more unique they become in trying to get the drugs across." Mexican authorities have also inspected their side of the border, but no arrests have been made. The drugs, which are scheduled to be destroyed, had an estimated street value of $42,500. In recent years, smugglers have utilized a host of innovative tactics to sneak narcotics across the border; last October, two bandits attempted to drive a car over the border ramp by using a makeshift fence. In 2011, surveillance video showed medieval-style catapults launching bales of pot in to the US.

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By McCarton Ackerman

addiction cures

12/13/12 12:01pm

A Cure for Addiction, at the Cost of Pleasure


Is it worth it? Photo via

Is curing addiction worth the potential loss of all other types of pleasure and desire? Some Chinese surgeons think so, and are performing an operation that selectively destroys parts of a key node in the brain’s pleasure circuitry, known as the nucleus accumbens. When this surgery first made international news in 2004, there was outrage over the lack of knowledge of long-term effects and the obvious ethical concerns. The Chinese health ministry banned the procedure for all uses except research. Adding to the controversy was the fact that some surgeons make most of their income from bonuses received for bringing in hospital patients for operations—and over 1,000 people with opioid addictions and alcoholism were treated before the ban.

As reported in TIME, however, the recent publication of what the authors claim to be positive results of the research in a Western journal is stirring even more debate—especially when some of the authors continue to advertise the operation to patients online:

The latest study is the third published since 2003 in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, which isn’t the only journal chronicling results from the procedure, known as ablation of the nucleus accumbens. In October, the journal World Neurosurgery also published results from the same researchers, who are based at Tangdu Hospital in Xi’an.

The authors, led by Guodong Gao, claim that the surgery is “a feasible method for alleviating psychological dependence on opiate drugs.” At the same time, they report that more than half of the 60 patients had lasting side effects, including memory problems and loss of motivation. Within five years, 53% had relapsed and were addicted again to opiates, leaving 47% drug free.

Are 50/50 odds of recovery worth possibly never feeling joy again, not to mention the risk of losing motivation, ambition and sexual desire? And is it even possible for anyone to comprehend what that risk actually means? 

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By Maia Szalavitz

celebrity rehab

12/13/12 11:11am

Amanda Seyfried Is "Never Sober" on Talk Shows


Seyfried toasts to liquid courage on
Letterman. Photo via

Stars, they're just like us! Les Miserables actress Amanda Seyfried has recently opened up about her struggles with OCD, anxiety and stage fright, which she sometimes medicates with booze. During her appearance on The Late Show this week, she told host David Letterman that she’s never done a television show “after noon without some sort of liquid courage." In fact, “I’m pretty drunk,” she admitted, before sharing a glass of whiskey (her drink of choice) with Letterman. In the January 2013 issue of InStyle, the 27-year-old actress confirms: "I've never been fully sober when I've gone on shows." She also talks about living with panic disorder and OCD, which she manages with the help of the anti-depressant Lexapro. "I have to do lots of things at the same time. It's an obsessive-compulsive thing,” she says. “So when I'm on the elliptical machine, which I do almost every day, I have to be knitting, playing Sudoku, and listening to something... I'm too measured and controlling—about everything. That's why I take Lexapro. It's for OCD." But the star says her OCD does not compromise her life or career—in fact, it offers some benefits. "I don't feel like I'm struggling with it. I think OCD is a part of me that protects me," she says. "It's also the part of me that I use in my job, in a positive way. The only thing I'd like to get beyond is my fear of driving over bridges and through tunnels. I can't overcome it."

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By Valerie Tejeda


12/13/12 5:00am

Morning Roundup: December 13, 2012


Sotomayor just said no. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise


12/12/12 5:04pm

Amsterdam Shockingly Bans Pot in High Schools


Life in Amsterdam is way harsh. Photo via

Schoolchildren in Amsterdam are about to face the cold, harsh reality of marijuana-free class time. The city's Mayor Eberhard van der Laan has announced a formal ban on students smoking pot on school grounds, making his city the first in the Netherlands to inflict such restrictions. Marijuana is technically illegal in the country, but a nationwide "tolerance" policy prevents police from arresting people for possession of small quantities. City spokeswoman Iris Reshef says that while most schools do officially prohibit weed, they've been unable to stop students toking up on school property before or after class. "It's not really what you have in mind as an educator, that children would be turning up for class stoned, or drunk either for that matter," she says. "But it has been a problem for some schools." From January 1, the city will declare "no toking zones" in schools and playgrounds—and transgressors will be fined. The new law is being dubbed a "typical Dutch compromise," in the wake of a recent government decision to abandon plans for a national "weed pass" that would have prevented tourists from buying marijuana in the country's famous "coffee" shops. The proposal was projected to cost Amsterdam an estimated 345 jobs and $41 million in lost revenue; opponents of the plan called it "tourist suicide" and claimed it would promote shady drug dealing instead. The incoming Dutch government has since ditched the proposal, and Mayor Van der Laan announced last month that Amsterdam's coffee shops could continue to sell pot to tourists.

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By May Wilkerson

survey says

12/12/12 4:01pm

What's Your Life in Recovery Like?


Contribute your story today. Photo via

Through December 31, the advocacy group Faces & Voices of Recovery is running an important "Life in Recovery" survey opportunity—and, if you consider yourself to be in recovery, they want to hear from you. The anonymous survey—available in English and Spanish—covers everything relating to what life is like for someone in recovery, as well as what life was like during active addiction. Sample questions include: When was the last time you drank alcohol or used drugs? How much coffee do you drink? Have you ever attended a 12-step recovery support group? A non-12-step group?

All this data is highly valuable, according to Faces & Voices of Recovery's executive director Pat Taylor. She tells The Fix that members of the organization's public-policy committee came up with the idea for the survey "because [life in recovery] is something that isn't discussed and doesn't get the kind of attention we believe it deserves." In addition to encouraging individuals who struggle with addiction to seek help, she continues, "We hope that the findings also will help stimulate researchers to pay attention to what recovery means, and for the investment of public and private resources to understand what works for people, and what recovery means to people."

The survey opened on November 4, and closes on the last day of the year. Taylor notes that, while Faces & Voices of Recovery has already collected thousands of responses, "We would like thousands more." Results of the survey will be made public in late winter, perhaps February, and will be accompanied by an exclusive Fix story, digging into the unique details that people are sharing about their life in recovery.

To complete the survey, click here.

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By Hunter R. Slaton


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